Posted in indie author, Jessica Conwell, Uncategorized

Three Sharp Knives

By: Jessica Conwell

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” -Jack Kerouac

Johnny– Hey Jessica, first I want to thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your book ‘Three Sharp Knives’. Having read your book I understand the name, and what it stands for, do you have any particular story behind the term/brand? where did “3SK” come from?

Jessica– Hey Johnny! Thanks for reading, I’m always happy to answer questions! The title Three Sharp Knives comes from the idea that certain people are considered ‘dangerous’ to society simply for existing, like sharp knives sitting on a counter. The three narrators are all such people, three women who fall just outside the bounds of what the world wants to understand.

Johnny– You are such a charming writer, you have a way when you developed your characters that is so real and strong that I feel invested, “bought in” and very close to them, what do you attribute to that?

Jessica– Thank you. I’ve always been of the view that characters are more important than plot. I’ll read a book with interesting characters and a thin plot well before I will finish a book with a fascinating plot and flat characters. I think the number one thing I try to remember when developing my characters is that people don’t make sense. People are messy. People are illogical. People act in ways contrary to their own values. People screw up. But despite it all, most people in the world are trying to do their best to work toward what they envision “good” to be. Whether that is a moral good, a spiritual good, or just a personal good varies person to person. But I try to start with asking myself, “What does this character define as their ‘good’ and what does it look like when they try to work towards it? How will they screw up along the way?” I think that might be why my characters are relatable. I think most people can understand the feeling of knowing the good, wanting the good, but having no effing idea how to go about achieving the good.

Johnny– This book is written in a different format than most, separated into four sections with no chapters, (which, by the way, works!), is this your style when you are writing? Or is it unique to this book?

Jessica– I tend to work with sections more than chapters. My earlier novel, Cluster, works this way as well. I think I fits my stories structure-wise better than breaking them up into chapters. I want the narrative to flow in a series of long arcs, mainly to create the feeling that everything is connected, nothing separated from anything else. Past mixes with present.

Johnny– What motivated you to write Three Sharp Knives?

Jessica– So, the most simplistic answer to that question is that after I finished Cluster, a friend of mine said, “I think you should write a story about ghost hunters.” Naturally, I took that in the least logical, barely connected direction I could.

The larger answer is that I wanted a story about unconventional people and unconventional love. Obviously, there is a lot of LGBTQ+ representation in 3SK, but even beyond that, I wanted to write a book for people who feel like they don’t really fit anywhere, people who want to love and be loved, but find it difficult to be understood.

Johnny– I want to talk about your characters again, they are so damn believable, and likable, did you have inspirations or muses when you created them, or were they strictly products of your imagination?

Jessica– Way back when I was younger writer, I made the mistake of basing characters entirely on people I knew. This, predictably, blew up in my face when said people read the stories, mainly because I was not yet a strong enough writer to mask what I was doing. So, I now have a strict policy for myself against writing biographical (or autobiographical) characters. However, there are, of course, scraps and snipping’s of people I have known or encountered in my life. I don’t think any author can truly avoid that. And, honesty time, there is a bit of me in each of my narrators.

Johnny– Without giving anything away, what was the hardest part of this book to write?

Jessica– Ha! That’s a difficult one to answer without giving anything away, because the truth is that the most difficult part of the book to write was the ending. In part it was because I couldn’t decide how to execute it. It was a eureka moment on a long walk that finally gave me the ‘nested circle’ structure of the flashbacks in the last section. The other reason it was difficult was—and this will be very difficult to say without spoiling anything—because, well, authors tend to get emotionally invested in their own characters, too. I’ve had people tell me how hard they have taken various unkind things I have done to characters of mine they connected with. My knee-jerk response is, “I know! I’m a monster!”

Johnny– You did it beautifully! Although, I gotta admit, I was a little surprised at the ending, so I’m guessing your going to be that writer that likes to shock your readers?

Jessica– I actually try not to, typically. Otherwise there isn’t much of a surprise since the reader is expecting a surprise, you know? I’m completely of the mindset that surprise endings have to be earned. They need to be a surprise only due to the reader not putting the pieces together ahead of time.

Johnny– My thought is that this book was written through the eyes of three different individuals, which narration was the hardest to write for?

Jessica– Heather, actually, who is also my favorite character. She was hard to write because of how bleak her worldview is at the beginning of her section. In a lot of ways, it mirrored my own thoughts during darker, lower moments of my life, and it wasn’t always enjoyable to access those while I was writing her.

Johnny– Was it therapeutic for you to write her?

Jessica– It actually was. It is good to speak dark feelings aloud sometimes.

Johnny– I did this when I interviewed Rebecca Hefner and it was a lot of fun so I’d like to try it with you if you don’t mind. You get a call from Hollywood, your book is going into production to become a movie, you are chosen to cast it, you can use any artists you want, who do you pick?

Jessica– I’ve been asked about before actually! I think my main demand that would be that all of my trans characters be portrayed by trans actors. Beyond that, if Saoirse Ronan isn’t Heather and Katey Sagal isn’t Mari, I just don’t know that I could sign off on the production.

Johnny– Ha! Katey Sagal would be perfect! Good call for Heather, NOW, who would play Seph and Lia?

Jessica– She’s a bit older than the character, but I think Jamie Clayton from Sense8 would be a great Seph. For Lia, I’ve never been able to lock down who I think would be good for her role. But I’m open to suggestions.

Johnny– I’m curious, because your book centers around this, are you a fan of puzzle rooms?

Jessica– I am a huge fan of puzzle rooms, verging on being evangelical about them. I’ve done enough of them that I have formed strong opinions regarding their quality.

Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that wants to become a writer?

Jessica– Write the stories you think only you will be interested in. That won’t be the case. Write the books you wish you’d had at your lowest moments. Also, immediately stop thinking about writing as some mystical art. Like any craft, it needs to be honed and developed. Practice.

Johnny– What advise do you have for someone that might be struggling with gender identity?

Jessica– Trust yourself. A million voices will tell you that you don’t know yourself, that they know you better than you could. Surround yourself with the people who love and support you, discard the ones who don’t. Never be afraid to seek additional support. Hold in your mind the truth that no matter what, you have intrinsic value and are worthy of love and respect.

Johnny– I hope I’m asking this right, because I am ignorant about transgender people, I’ll be the first to admit that, but, at what age did you drop the gender society given you (because of the anatomy you were born with), to become the woman you are today?

Jessica– That’s a tricky one, because I spent a long time knowing and being in active denial. I was 33 when I finally came out, though.

Johnny– Was your family supportive? are you close with your family?

Jessica– The members of my family I am close with were very supportive, even if they didn’t understand right away. I, of course, had some members who were less so (especially among my then-in-laws) but the people who knew me the best knew that this wasn’t something I had decided based on some whim I was having.

Johnny– As a transgender woman do you feel accepted by society?

Jessica– In certain segments, sure. Otherwise, no, no I don’t. For one thing, the US government itself is currently hostile toward trans people. Aside from that, the background noise of life as a trans person is a cacophony of microaggressions, threats of violence, discrimination, distrust, and prejudice. So, we find our pocket communities. We build our “found families” and we do everything we can to try to change the way things are. But we have a hell of a long way to go.

Johnny– When you say “currently hostile” was it more-so after the 2016 election than before?

Jessica– Absolutely. Before 2016, things weren’t great, but it seemed like progress was being made, if only in an ‘inch at a time’ way. After the election, not only were protections and rights we had been granted under constant attack, it was almost as if a license had been given to not hide your prejudices.

*(I’d like to add a side note here, as a veteran who served in the US Army it breaks my heart and angers me to my core that you have to deal with this sort of hate and hostilities. When I joined, I joined so EVERYONE regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation could live in this country freely, peacefully, without fear or harassment from bigots and their hate, intolerance, and prejudice.) JS

Johnny– Jessica where do you want to be in 10 years?

Jessica– Watching my daughter start college (if that’s what she wants), going on adventures with my partner, and always, always, always still writing. Even if my audience can still be counted on one hand.

Johnny– You keep writing like you do I’m predicting that you will need a “few” hands to count your audience on. What are you wanting your readers to take away with them after reading 3SK?

Jessica– I hope they leave with more empathy and understanding for people different than they are, as well as more openness to love in all of its bizarre, beautiful forms. I hope I can make some people who have never felt understood seen, even if just a little.

Johnny– Who is your favorite writer?

Jessica– That is tough one, because every time I think I know the answer, my brain yells, “Wait! Wait! But what about…?” A short list would have to include Richard Russo, Carmen Maria Machado, Tillie Walden, and Neil Gaiman.

Johnny– Do you have any projects planned for 2020?

Jessica– Roughly a thousand of them, though I am favoring a project that does have a loose tie-in to 3SK (much as 3SK has some loose connections to my earlier book, Cluster). Unfortunately, it is in the form of bringing back probably the last character 3SK readers wanted to see return, so….

Johnny– So… we might not see Seph and Heather again?

Jessica– You may, but they will be wandering through the background of a scene. I have this long-standing belief that everyone is the background character in someone else’s life. All of my novels have a shared universe, but rarely will I bring a main character from one book into the forefront of another. However, you may see someone who was a minor character in 3SK play a more major role.

Johnny– Do you mind giving a quick elevator pitch for Cluster?

Jessica– A group of misfit friends run a music venue/coffee shope/vintage toy store together while coping with love and loss of many different flavors. Also, there’s a lengthy discussion about ghost sex.

REVIEW

Every once in a while I get the pleasure to come across a book that totally catches me off guard. Three Sharp Knives was one of those books.

Upon opening this book, I was carried away with a narrative that was so mesmerizing, characters so endearing, a plot well-groomed that it belongs on a Hollywood screen, I could not help but fall in LOVE with this book! I think you will too.

Three against the world was a reoccurring theme that ran across my mind time after time while I was reading this. Love, defined on their terms was what I was left with.

I love this book! It has earned the five stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐rating that I’ve given it on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m proud to say that I am a HUGE fan of Jessica Conwell.

If a good story and strong characters is your thing, then Three Sharp Knives is the book for you. I can’t wait to read and review Jessica’s other book Cluster.

Great job on writing a great book Jessica! I’m a fan!!

You can buy Jessica’s books here

Follow Jessica on Twitter

✌❤

Posted in Antara, indie author, Uncategorized

Ghost Stories

By: Antara Roy O

“A scene should be selected by the writer for haunted-ness-of-mind interest.
If you’re not haunted by something, as by a dream, a vision, or a memory, which are involuntary, you’re not interested or even involved.” ― Jack Kerouac

I don’t know about you, but I love a good ghost story. Growing up in the Ozarks I remember hearing stories that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. There were no explanations, no reasoning, just a story, and it was scary. Naturally when I came across Ghost Stories, I jumped at the chance to talk with author, Antara Roy O.

Johnny– Hi Antara, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. This was so much fun! What made you want to write Ghost Stories?

Antara– Hi Johnny, it’s always a pleasure to talk to fellow ghost story enthusiasts, and good to be here! 

   I have always been a keen ghost story enthusiast. Perhaps, growing up in a small, quaint town with majestic pine trees all around me helped to nurture my interest in the paranormal. There was my grandma’s old, rambling bungalow up on a hill that is said to be haunted, and then there were plenty of ghostly tales that I listened to while sitting around bonfires during winter nights.

 You could say that the atmosphere I grew up in was perpetually infused with countless supernatural tales. The ghosts were everywhere, part of my growing years, and I never stopped being intrigued by them. 

Johnny– That sounds like a beautiful place. Has any of the stories you heard growing up ever been solved or explained scientifically?

Antara– None that I know of. It is hard to explore these inexplicable terrains and in a small town like ours, no one was up for exploring or finding a scientific perspective to things. Those who sighted the ghosts or experienced the hauntings told their stories, and those who were afraid kept out of the way! You could say that we mortals maintained a respectful distance from the supernatural beings.

Johnny– Are these stories that you’ve heard, or did you create them?

Antara-Most of these stories are inspired by true life encounters I have heard through the years, while some are works of my imagination. 

Johnny– Are the works of your imagination inspired by something you may have experienced in real life?

Antara– Most of my stories are inspired by the eerie and majestic setting of my home town. I have once heard a door open all by itself in the dead of the night in my childhood home. Also, the true-life encounters of my immediate family members and relatives were enough to keep my creative spirit going.

Johnny– If you had to pick one out of your book, which would be your favorite?

Antara– My favorite would be ‘The girl by the lake.’ This story is inspired by a local legend about a beautiful girl who wanders around the highway, by a lake. She waylays travelers who are much smitten by her beauty and follow her into the depths of a forest. 

Johnny– That one is my favorite as well. What made you a fan of the paranormal and supernatural? Have you ever experienced anything like that?

Antara– I have always been fascinated by the paranormal and supernatural. I have had a couple of experiences which have left me both terrified and intrigued. When I was in school, there was a ghost visiting our house and like I mentioned, I heard a door creaking and opening in the middle of the night. When we turned on the lights, there was no one around. Needless to say, such experiences are unnerving but they also make me feel alive and strangely curious about the otherworldly.

Johnny– Was this the only ghostly or paranormal experience you ever encountered?

Antara– There was one more, and this was much away from my original home. It happened here in the city that I now live in, Bangalore. A dear friend had lost his life in an accident and that very day I had seen a vision of him across the road. This experience chilled me to the bones and at the same time I was grateful that his spirit had appeared to come to bid me goodbye.

Johnny– Are you more fascinated or frightened by the unexplained?

Antara– I would say a good measure of both. At times my fascination helps me bridge over my fears and at times my fears keep my fascinations in check!

Johnny– In your opinion, what makes a good ghost story?

Antara– While there are no set rules to writing a good ghost story, but it helps to have the element of suspense. It is also important to create an apt eerie atmosphere, to draw the reader in and offer a completely satisfying, spooky experience. One of my readers told me once of how he loved the way one of my stories transported him to another world, as he sat waiting for his doctor’s appointment for a nasty ear infection. 

Johnny– How do you collect ghost stories? Do people contact you or do you try to go out and experience it yourself?

Antara– Whenever I can, I speak to people of their supernatural experiences. Also, a really fascinating thing happened after I began to write and publish ghost stories. I started to receive messages on Facebook and Twitter from strangers who said they enjoyed reading my ghost stories and would like me to hear their stories. While some of these I have listened to and respected them for their personal details, the rest I plan to turn into stories, with the permission of the narrators.

Johnny– Tell me a little something about yourself , (where are you from, what do you do for fun, favorite foods, hobbies, pets etc…)

Antara– I come from the Eastern valleys of India, and although I have traveled far away from my home and have moved towns and cities ever since, my heart always belongs to my native valleys.

 Other than my fascination with the paranormal, I love writing poetry. I write a lot of nature poems, some of which are motivational and inspirational. You can find my poems on Instagram (antara.ro). It does sound funny- my two interests, nature and the supernatural, but one does strangely complement the other, and I always believe that everything in the universe is inter-connected. I also enjoy playing the guitar and the piano. One of my favorite things to do is to head out on long drives with the music on. I enjoy baking and cooking new, exotic cuisines. When a newly cooked dish turns into a disaster, my dear husband is always there to encourage me to keep going.

my dear husband is always there to encourage me to keep going.

Johnny– He sounds like an awesome individual. When you go out on long drives what kind of music do you listen to?

Antara– I am a devoted fan of Rock and blues music and my favorite bands include The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Blind Melon, Lemonheads, Nirvana, The Cranberries, and many others.

Johnny– Great bands! Sounds like a 90’s roadtrip waiting to happen. Is Ghost Stories the only book you’ve written?

Antara– I have written another book of short stories. These are mostly stories of childhood adventures. The book is named, ‘Simply, Bahadur,’ inspired by the character of an old, quirky gardener who worked in my grandma’s garden. These are gentle, feel good childhood tales describing the picturesque beauty of the valleys and the many delightful, eccentric people I met through my growing years.

Johnny– That sounds like a good read. It almost sounds like what we call around here,  folk-stories, does the study of human behavior and customs interest you?

Antara– I’m immensely drawn to the study of human nature and folklore. There is so much magic in this world and I believe that one lifetime isn’t enough to thoroughly revel in it all!

Johnny– What other books do you have planned? Are you currently working on anything?

Antara– Presently, I’m working on a paranormal mystery novel. The story is set in an old, quaint town and there will be plenty of black magic and witchcraft thrown in. I’m truly excited to complete it and get it out into the world!

Johnny– Oh that sounds interesting, will this be released in 2020?

Antara– Yes, most definitely, and I hope it appeals to the lovers of spook and witchcraft out there!

Johnny– I’m sure it will! Thank you so much Antara for taking the time to talk to me, it has been a pleasure!

REVIEW

What can I say, I’m a sucker for the supernatural.

Growing up in the Ozarks nothing delighted me more than hearing a tale that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It was exhilarating.  It made me feel alive.

This is what delights me about Ghost Stories, Antara has captured in this book everything that I love, it’s both frightful and delightful!

Warning! 👻 Enter at your own risk. ⚠

From her native India she share tales that were passed down through local folklore and legend. Her prose is smooth and calm, her openings are so clear I feel as though I see the lay of the land a half a world away. The beauty of this book it that it’s without boundaries.

❤❤❤

Ghost Stories does what governments has been trying to do for hundreds if not thousands of years, it unites us as people, it brings us together if only for a short amount of time as humans sharing a spine tickling experiences.

I’m giving Ghost Stories five stars⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ on both Amazon and Goodreads. It fascinates me, it makes me feel young, it made me feel alive.

If you haven’t already read Ghost Stories I highly recommend that you do.

Antara has proven that she is a master of storytelling, passing along the spoken word of her ancestors to this written work of art.

https://twitter.com/antara_oruganti

Be sure and Follow Antara on Twitter

https://www.instagram.com/antara.or/

Purchase Simply, Bahadur,’ HERE.

Visit her Authors Page on Amazon.

✌❤